- By Célestine Karoney
- BBC Sport Africa, Nairobi
The men’s marathon world record holder, Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum, 24, has died in a road accident in his home country.
He was killed on Sunday alongside his trainer, Rwandan Gervais Hakizimana, in a car on a road in western Kenya.
Kiptum made a breakthrough in 2023 as a rival to compatriot Eliud Kipchoge, one of the greatest marathon runners.
Kiptum bettered Kipchoge’s record, covering the 26.2 miles (42 km) in two hours and 35 seconds in Chicago last October.
Both athletes had been named in Kenya’s provisional marathon team ahead of the Paris Olympics later this year.
Kipchoge said on X that the man who broke his record was a rising star who had “a whole life” ahead of him to achieve “incredible greatness”, offering his condolences to his family.
Also paying tribute, Kenyan President William Ruto described Kiptum as a extraordinary sportsman who left a mark on the world.
His father Samson Cheruiyot was upset.
“Kiptum was my only child, now he has left me,” he told Kenya’s Citizen TV. “I don’t know what to say, I see his children will look at me and my child is gone… Now who will help us raise his children?”
The road accident occurred around 11:00 p.m. local time (8:00 p.m. GMT) on Sunday.
Giving details of the accident, police said Kiptum was driving and “lost control”. [of the vehicle] and left the road entering a ditch on its left side.
“He rolled into the ditch for approximately 60 meters before hitting a large tree,” police said in a statement.
Kiptum and Hakizimana died at the scene of a collision. A third person, a young woman, was seriously injured and taken to hospital for treatment.
Last week, Kiptum’s team announced they would attempt to run the marathon in under two hours in Rotterdam in April – a feat that has never been achieved in open competition.
The father of two’s rise to fame has been rapid: he didn’t compete in his first full marathon until 2022.
He made an instant impact by setting the fourth fastest time ever (2:01:53) to win the Valencia Marathon before setting a course record of 2:01:25 at the London Marathon in April 2023 .
Six months later, in just his third marathon, Kiptum beat the world record set in Chicago in his final race by 34 seconds.
He had already refined a distinct tactical approach that allowed him to run with the peloton for 30km before picking up the pace and heading off alone for the rest of the race.
Kiptum competed in his first major competition in 2018, running in borrowed shoes because he couldn’t afford a pair.
He was part of a new generation of Kenyan athletes who began their careers on the road, breaking with the past tradition of athletes starting on the track before moving to longer distances.
Kiptum told the BBC last year that his unusual choice was simply due to a lack of resources.
“I didn’t have money to travel and attend the sessions,” he explained.
People gathered outside the hospital in Eldoret in the Rift Valley where his body was taken.
“I don’t know what to say but God, if we have done wrong, may He forgive us because Kiptum was heading for great heights,” one man said.
“We want to say our deepest apologies to the Kenyans and much more to the family of the missing hero. Very sorry,” another told a local TV station.
Kiptum’s coach, Hakizimana, 36, was a retired Rwandan runner. Last year, he spent months helping Kiptum aim for the world record.
Their relationship as coach and athlete began in 2018, but the two first met when the world record holder was much younger.
“I knew him when he was little, he herded cattle barefoot,” Hakizimana recalled last year. “It was 2009, I was training near his father’s farm, he would come and kick me and I would chase him.
“Now I am grateful to him for his success.”